Stage 12: Bisha to Jeddah
The 2022 Dakar Rally is over and Sam Sunderland (#3 – GasGas) has won for the second time, five years after he took his first title on a KTM.
The last day consisted of a 250 km liaison and then a short 163 km special stage, followed by a 280 km liaison back to the finish podium in Jeddah.
Despite being a short special, the final day has brought many rider’s dreams to an end in the past. Andrew Houlihan (#62 – KTM), sidelined with injuries since Stage 5, remembers:
“The last day of the race – and this is when anything can happen. Last year I passed bikes that had failed and riders that had fallen. Their race had come to an end so close to the finish!”
It’s always an early start on the last day to give enough time for the podium presentation, and the first bikes were away at 4am.
Pablo Guillen (#35 – KTM), riding for the Nomadas Adventure Coca-Cola team and his Nomadas teammate Vasileios Boudros (#147 – Husqvarna) left just after 5am.
The Nomadas Adventure team set off not long after the riders this morning for the 500 km road trip to Jeddah, with a detour to the end of the special stage to watch the riders finish the race.
“We arrived only 5 minutes after Kevin Benavides & and Sam Sunderland crossed the line, followed by the other top riders”, reported Andrew Houlihan. “We waited in a sandstorm until Vasileios and Pablo came in safely.”
There were no dunes for the last stage which the boys were very happy about. They put in a steady and conservative day, making sure to there were no mistakes that could have ended their Dakar journey.
Pablo now has his 2nd Dakar finish. He finished 76th overall and 54th in the Rally 2 group.
Vasileios was ranked 70th overall and 48th in Rally 2 at the end of his first Dakar Rally.
Sam Sunderland went into the final stage with a 6 minute 52 second lead over Pablo Quintanilla (#7 – Honda). All he needed to do was to stay out of trouble and maintain a steady pace to claim victory. Pablo did close the gap but that deficit was always going to be too hard to claw back.
Matthias Walkner (#52 – KTM) did the same to secure 3rd place. In fact the first 5 places didn’t change over the final stage.
Australian Toby Price (#18 – KTM) maintained his 10th overall.
After crossing the finish line the bikes had a 280 km ride back to Jeddah for the final podium presentation, and Andrew and the Nomadas Adventure team hit the road for the final run into Jeddah.
Dakar is tough. It’s demanding. It’s cruel at times. No matter what the outcome, just getting to Dakar is an achievement.
Not finishing is certainly disappointing for Andrew Houlihan, but against the odds he was there and gave it all he could. Now there’s the recovery and next year …… ???
Andrew’s final words from Saudi Arabia – “With the rally over and the podium done, it was COVID test time, unpack the vehicles and prepare for our flights home tomorrow. Thanks to everyone, my sponsors, my supporters and of course my family for the incredible support you give me. Thank you.”
Dakar 2022 is finished!